AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s no secret that Tiger Woods boosts television ratings when he plays.
But his absence at this week’s Masters Tournament isn’t expected to detract from what is traditionally golf’s highest-rated telecast.
“(It) always has been the highest-rated and most anticipated golf tournament of the year,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said last week. “That was true before Tiger played in it. It’s true when Tiger (plays) in it, and it will be true when Tiger is no longer playing.”
Television coverage begins with ESPN broadcasting the first two rounds from 3-7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. CBS, which is in its 59th year of televising the Masters, will broadcast on the weekend. Saturday’s telecast is 3-7 p.m., and Sunday’s final round will be shown from 2-7 p.m.
Although Woods is a four-time winner and always a threat at Augusta National, most broadcast commentators are ready to talk about other players.
“It’s disappointing for the fans because certainly he’s the No. 1 draw,” ESPN’s Curtis Strange said. “But we still do our same job. We prepare the same. We talk the same. And quite frankly, I didn’t think he was going to be a big part of the picture anyway, come the weekend, so I was already preparing for that.”
CBS anchorman Jim Nantz pointed to the 24 first-timers on hand this year.
“I think we have something special in this rookie class,” said Nantz, who is working his 29th Masters. “Once the tournament gets started, we’ll have a quick transition from the headlines of Tiger not being here to these young players and the impact they will have on golf.”
TV industry executives might fret about potential ratings, but Nantz said the viewers don’t care.
“I’ve never had anybody say, ‘Tell me about the ratings when Jack Nicklaus won in 1986,’” Nantz said. “I never had anyone say, ‘Phil’s victory was great in 2004, but too bad about the rating.’ It was on Easter Sunday that year (which usually decreases ratings).”
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